SA bids dignified farewell to Madiba

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Various dignitaries pay their respects at the coffin of former President Nelson Mandela as he lies in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. REUTERS/Kim Ludbrook/Pool

Pretoria - People were respectful and dignified in paying their last respects to former president Nelson Mandela, as he lay in state at the amphitheatre at the Union Buildings, in Pretoria, on Wednesday.

Many of them were silent, and others spoke softly as they made their way up the stairs to view his body in its open casket, which was guarded by military personnel dressed in white.

Government officials helped people, ensuring they were brief.

Each visitor took about 10 minutes, from the time they disembarked from their bus until the time they climbed back in.

They were told to switch off their cellphones before entering the building, but some managed to sneak a few pictures outside after viewing the body.

In one instance, two police officers walked past a group of young men who were taking pictures on their cellphones.

Sarah Ross, a US missionary who has lived in South Africa for six years, said the experience of seeing Mandela lying in state was solemn and sincere.

“It was scary at first, but he was an amazing man. The work that God must have done on his heart is amazing,” she said.

Ross said she would have loved to have met Mandela while he was alive.

Barbara Barde-Vaquette, a dentist from the island of Reunion, said she decided to fly to South Africa when she heard of Mandela's death on Thursday.

“He's beautiful,” she said after seeing his body.

“(The viewing) was short, but I think I still need some time (for the experience) to sink in.”

Mandela will lie in state until Friday.

He is to be buried in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, on Sunday.


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